Seventh Sunday After The Epiphany
February 24, 2019
“Seeing God In The Dark”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
The account of Joseph is a sad story. Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. The favorite. The guy that had the coat of many colors. But his story is amazingly sad.
It didn’t start out sad and it doesn’t end sad, but there was a bunch of stuff in the middle that was sad. As I said he was his father’s favorite. Maybe it was because he was the first child born to Rachel, the only one of his wives that Jacob truly loved. But being the favorite didn’t sit well with the rest of his brothers. All of you first-borns and last-borns of your family were the favorites – I remember that, and that doesn’t sit well for those of us who weren’t first, or last!!
His brothers were taking care of the sheep and Joseph was sent to sent to check on how they were doing. When the other 10 (Benjamin was just a baby), saw him coming a number of them decided to kill him. That’s what you do with the favorite!! But one brother, the oldest, Reuben, protected him, had him thrown into a dry well, and sold him to a caravan that was heading toward Egypt.
You would think that would be the end of the story. But no. A man called Potiphar, an important person in Egypt bought him and had him work in his house. Joseph did a fine job of working. He was smart and things prospered. But Joseph not only caught the eye of Potiphar but also his wife. It says in Genesis 39, “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me.’” (Genesis 39:6c-7) Joseph had to say “no” over and over again. She wanted him. She made it easy for him to give in. But this is what he said, “No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God? And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.” (Genesis 39:9-10)
But she didn’t stop. Eventually she pursued him and made it look like he had come to have sex with her. She grabbed his robe and he fled from the house naked. She told her husband that he had come to do a terrible thing to her.
Joseph and his sad story continued. He was thrown into prison. When you went to prison in those days you didn’t usually get a chance for a reduced sentence. Sad story, right? He had done everything right. He stayed away from sin. He honored the man who had trusted him with his household. He kept his integrity. He obeyed God. And now he goes to prison. It was a pretty dark situation.
That leads us to what we read today in this account. A number of the brothers had left Canaan, where they tried to take care of flocks, grow some crops, and survive, and had come to Egypt. They were two years into a drought and they had nothing to live on. Joseph, by God’s doing, had been released from prison and now was in the upper levels of Egyptian power. His brothers were directed to him as they sought some food. He knew them but they didn’t know him. They thought their brother was dead.
In this chapter he reveals himself to them. “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.’” (Genesis 45:4) Joseph had been crying at the whole thought of seeing his brothers, finding out about his father, Jacob, and now revealing all this to his brothers. They wanted to cry too. Not in joy; but in fear. They knew what they had done. They knew that they had planned to kill him and then had sold him as a slave for someone to do something awful to him.
But what did Joseph see in all of this? God. He saw God. He saw God in all that darkness. Sold as a slave. Put into prison. When he tried to do everything right, and everything went wrong, he saw God. When his brothers were shaking in fear, waiting for retribution, Joseph tells them, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you… God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:5,7-8)
He saw God in the dark. When everything was against him, he saw that God was not going to abandon him. And he knew that God had a purpose not just for him but also He had a plan of his people, Israel.
How about you? Some days are just fine. Life is good. One day you can sing “Zippidy-do-dah, Zippidy-day” but the next it is “Nobody knows the trouble I’m in. Nobody knows but Jesus.” In Psalm 42 it says, “I say to God, my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by my enemy?’ My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:9-10)
Are you like Joseph? Can you see God in the dark? When everything in life is a question do you believe that God has an answer? Can you say the same as he did when he looked at all the evil that others had brought on him, “So then it was not you who sent me here, but God”?
God is present in the deepest darkness and hopelessness and despair. God is present when sin has had its way and when temptation doesn’t stop. Psalm 139 says, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is at light to you.” (Psalm 139:11-12) The first part of John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness.” The light – Jesus shines in the darkness. It is only that truth that allows us to understand Romans 8:28, “For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
In 10 days we begin the season of Lent, a time when we see God in the dark. We see some sad and awful things happen to Jesus. To the One who has the name above all names, who is Lord of lords and Kings of kings, He is ridiculed, mocked, hit, whipped and spit on. He is called a fraud and a liar. In the Garden He sweats blood as He prays about God’s will being done in those hours.
In order for us to be forgiven and rescued from darkness He was sent into the dark. In John 12 Jesus was assured of His Father’s presence in the coming dark hours. Jesus said, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. ‘Father, glorify your name!’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’” (John 12:27-28)
See God in the dark. “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b) “Nothing in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) “No one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28c).
God was in the dark for Jesus. God is in the dark for us. And God continued to be present in the dark for Joseph, and his brothers. Jacob, their father died, and Joseph’s brothers feared that he was only showing kindness to them for his father’s sake. Now, they feared, all hell was going to break lose without their father’s protection.
Joseph, saw beyond the sin of his brothers. In chapter 50 Joseph speaks to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-21)
Joseph wouldn’t live in the dark with vengeance and retribution. He lived in the light of grace, forgiveness and kindness. God, and His ways, was seen in that man in that situation.
Do you see God in the dark? He is there. His presence is found in the worst of situations, the dark crevices that seem too awful. The light, Jesus, shines wonderfully in the darkness.
See God in the dark. He is always present. Amen!!